Burn Barrel Love (Valentine’s Day)

Burn Barrel Love, Chignik Lake, Alaska

Waking to heavy snowfall a few weeks ago, we went out looking for wildlife. At the White Spruce Grove, Pine Siskins, Chickadees, Golden-crowned Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos were happily filling up on cone seeds and the food in our feeders. We’d heard there was a lynx in the area, and there are always foxes and wolves just beyond the village. We didn’t see much – just this pair of Ravens hanging out and enjoying a snowy moment at one of their favorite meeting places.

 

Assignment #6: A Sense of Place – Suutei Tsai in a Mongolian Ger

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Outdoor Photographer’s challenge two weeks ago: an environmental, visual or cultural photo depicting a strong connection with a specific place. Here, our hostess at her ger in the Mongolian countryside prepares a pot of suutei tsai to take the chill off an October night – piping hot milk with a little tea and a dash of salt. 

 

 

“Dry and Sunny, a Break from Winter Weather” – OP Assignment #4

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It doesn’t get much drier and sunnier than Mongolia’s Gobi Desert. Above, Khongoryn Els, the famed “Singing Dunes,” stretch across the landscape. See nine additional photos from our October 2014 trip below.

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As in any desert, no resource is more precious than water.

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Well adapted for this parched climate, over a million Mongolian Gazelle flourish in arid steppe grasslands which include portions of the Gobi. Mongolia’s grasslands are considered to be one of the world’s last, great wilderness areas.

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Red-billed Choughs, a striking member of the crow family, close out the day at Yolyn Am Canyon…

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Earlier in the day a magnificent Siberian Ibex, protective of his harem, kept a wary eye on an approaching photographer.

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As we journeyed, we stayed with families in their gers (yurt homes). Here, aruul, a type of cheese, bakes into a hard cake on a tray atop a ger.

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Not only dry but extremely cold and windswept, winters in the Gobi can be unforgiving. The worst of them are know as zud and can wipe out millions of livestock.

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The nighttime skies were spectacular.  The Big Dipper hangs over our lighted ger. 

Not all deserts have camels, of course, but they certainly add an exotic element. In Mongolia, two-humped Bactrians are utilized for transportation, meat, milk and the most excellent cream cheese we’ve ever tasted. Here, Barbra’s mount and I exchange inquisitive looks.

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Our eight-day trek through part of the Gobi Desert was one of the highlights of our two-year stay in Mongolia. Not only did we get to briefly experience the lifestyle of one of the world’s few remaining semi-nomadic people, we also got to sample new foods, see exotic animals we’d read about in books as children, feel the Singing Dunes hum mystically through our bodies…  and, yes, riding a camel to seldom-visited sand dunes was a first and it was fun. At Bayanzag (pictured above), the legendary Flaming Cliffs where the first fossilized dinosaur eggs were discovered, we even found a large, fragile skull with teeth intact and a spine radiating out several feet, the fossilized remains of some species that no longer walks the earth. It’s 20° F (-7° C), a north wind swirling falling snow as I write this. A trip back to the Gobi through photographs was indeed a nice break from winter.

Next Thursday: Assignment #5 – Motivational Moments: the things that get us out of bed at 4:00 AM to go out and shoot; or that inspire us to sit for hours waiting for a capture. I already have a few ideas in mind. Stay tuned!

Winter Landscape in Black and White: Spruce Tree with Mountain

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I made this photo just a few feet from my home in Chignik Lake. The challenge was to somehow clean up the assortment of utility poles, wires, satellite dishes and the dissonant array of scrub alder closer to eye level. I actually knew as soon as this assignment (Winter Landscape in Black and White – the second weekly assignment from Outdoor Photographer magazine) was posted the scene I wanted to shoot. I put on a long lens, waited for the right light, and got this frame.

Next Thursday: Patterns of Winter

 

Ink and Light: Framed in Light and “Something like a Raven”

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Framed in Light: Umiaks and Northern Lights, Point Hope, Alaska

                   …in silence                  where all things
      and all beings reach                 back into time before iron and oil.
        dg nanouk okpik – Tulunigraq: Something like a Raven, 2012

Whaling crews of the Inupiat Eskimo village of Point Hope still hunt on the Chukchi Sea from traditional umiaks – small whaling skiffs with wooden frames and bearded seal skin hulls.

dg nanouk okpik is an Inupiaq-Inuit poet from Alaska’s North Slope. Nanouk is Polar Bear and Okpik is Cloudberry in the Inupiaq language. Her book Corpse Whale was published by the University of Arizona Press in 2012.

Winter Macro Photography: Other Worlds

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Abstract #4: Parallel Worlds – Among new projects in 2017 is a commitment to taking on the “Weekly Photo Assignment” challenge at Outdoor Photographer magazine. The first new assignment for 2017 was Winter Macro. 

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Abstract #4: Fracture – For the first time in perhaps five years, our lake, Chignik Lake, has frozen solid. The first day it was reasonably safe to walk on the ice, it was incredibly clear.

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Abstract #9: Galaxy – As I walked around scanning the bottom for fish and aquatic insects, here and there I noticed bubbles trapped in the clear ice.

Next Thursday: Winter Landscape in Black and White

Ink and Light: “For John Clare” and a Redpoll in Mongolia

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Thin Air: Common Redpoll, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Redpolls breed in Arctic regions around the world, descending into lower latitudes in winter. A bird of the North, they generally are uncommon south of Canada.

For John Clare
The whole scene is fixed your mind,
the music all present,
as though you could see
each note as well as hear it.
John Ashbery, lines from For John Clare, published in 1969

John Ashbery’s (1927-) poetry has earned nearly every major award including the Pulitzer. The subject of this poem, John Clare (1793-1864), emerged from difficult early years to write beautiful poetry about the natural world before later being institutionalized for insanity.